|Tour de Pannessac|
In July I took you on a tour of Le Puy-en-Velay and in that post I mentioned the Tour de Pannessac, the former royal entrance to the town and dating from the 14th century. Our short walking tour today will begin there. Standing here, next to the tower, I have to wonder whether Charlemagne was on foot when he visited the Le Puy or on horseback. Probably the latter which unfortunately means that I can not claim to be following in his footsteps, just his horses hoof prints, which does not have quite the same panache does it? But King Louis IX also passed this way in 1254 on his return from the crusades and he gave the town the right to add gold coloured fleurs-de-lys to the coat of arms.
Keeping the tower on your right, continue along boulevard Carnot to the square and then go right. The road climbs gently and after a short distance there is a left, rue Montferrand. I recommend that you take this street and continue up the slight incline and you will find yet another of the many surprises that this town has to offer.
Continue to the top of the street which connects with boulevard Montferrand and takes you, eventually, to steps that lead to rue Chosson and the church on the hill. Although it's not strictly a hill. It's actually a volcanic plug - a stream of magma that has hardened in the vent of an ancient volcano - that has been exposed by erosion. Standing at a height of 82m above the rest of the city, the church, St Michel d'Aiguilhe is small but well worth the effort of the climb. The chapel was built in the 10th century (961 to be exact) at the insistence of the bishop Gothescalk of Le Puy following his return from a pilgrimage to Compostela and it has towered above the city ever since. The frescoes in the interior are primitive but the colours are still vibrant along with the decorative stonework around the outside. In the 1950's the chapel and altar were restored and it was during that process that a wooden figure of Christ was discovered. It is thought to have been created in the 10th century.
Back in the heart of the old town and, as I meander through the narrow streets and onto rue Raphaël, I discover yet another little surprise. This street originally housed the leading citizens of the town along with other well-healed families, their wealth displayed in the painted decoration on their houses and intricate masonry. A little further along the street, out of the corner of my eye, I spot a man dressed in doublet, hose and a cloak in an archway and I begin to think I've slipped back through time. Then I stop and look again and realise it is yet another fresco and I smile to myself. 'He's clearly a wealthy gent', I tell myself, 'collecting some Livres from a 16th century cash machine!'
This is my last post about Le Puy, however the city is a location that I use in my current novel, Merle. To solve his current mystery, my central character and investigator, Jacques Forêt, follows a suspect to Le Puy and what he finds there, surprises him.
I have no doubt, at some point in the not too distant future, I will be back in Le Puy and I will look forward to that!